The Tennessee Forest Legacy Program currently conserves 35,000 acres across Tennessee, and is growing. Its mission is to protect environmentally important, working private forestlands threatened with conversion to non-forest uses.
The Forest Legacy Program identifies and permanently protects environmentally important private forestlands that are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. This USDA Forest Service Program, authorized by the Farm Bill, works to identify and maintain well-managed, working forests on the landscape. Delivered through Forest Service Cooperative Forestry, Tennessee and most other US states qualify as a participant and compete nationally for 75% grant funding each year. Tennessee’s State Forest Legacy Committee consists of experienced officials, professionals, and landowners of diverse environmental and conservation interests who grade and rank proposals annually for consideration. Forest Legacy in Tennessee specifically targets and perpetuates traditional forestland values and benefits on environmentally valuable forest lands by requiring each tract to have a detailed forest management plan, known as a Forest Stewardship Plan, to address all resource elements and land management objectives. On Tennessee’s Forest Legacy tracts the benefits of timber production, wildlife management, soil and water conservation and other tangible and intrinsic values are maintained locally and will continue to produce benefits to Tennesseans.
Since initial involvement in 2000, fee simple and permanent conservation easement purchases to-date total 35,272 acres valued at $33 million. Over half of the $33 million land value ($18.6 million) was funded with federal Legacy grant money with the balance being private, non-federal matching lands and funds. Virtually no dollars from the State or Agriculture budget were used to permanently protect or purchase these lands. Proposed to the USFS for the upcoming year are 2,700 additional acres worth $2.7 million dollars. Although not all proposed tracts are funded each year it is expected that Tennessee will continue to identify and protect additional lands as funded Forest Legacy projects in the upcoming years. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture staff and the Tennessee Forest Legacy Program Manager are working to expand the State website to include this report with expanded details on Forest Legacy Program acquisitions. The updated Agriculture website will also allow anyone to download specifications and applications for nominating a tract for ranking and grading consideration.